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Islam and the Bible: Introduction to a Series

By John Rankin
Theological Education Institute

CBN.com -
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, there has been much public debate about the nature of Islam, particularly in the Arab and central Asian regions. Many say that Islam worships the same God as does Judaism and Christianity, that it is inherently a peaceful religion, and that Islamic extremists are no different than extremists found in any culture or religion. Others say Islam worships a false god and is inherently warlike.
 
My interest in First the Gospel, Then Politics... resides in the reality of the God of Genesis 1-2. He is good, and he made all men and women in his image to share his goodness. But as sin is introduced in Genesis 3, evil comes into the world and affects all of us in one way or another. Jesus is the Messiah in whom all the goodness is restored for those who trust in him, and thus the "Gospel" of Jesus Christ is rooted in the Greek word for "preaching the good news."
 
We need Good News at a time like this, and specially as we look at a protracted and worldwide war against terrorist cells, their support networks, and even nations. Many issues will prove very complex, and thus we need an honest grappling with history, where foundational and interpretive truths are learned. This is The Love of Hard Questions. We need to know how to preach and demonstrate the Good News as Paul did on Mars Hill in Acts 17, when he took the truest hopes of the pagan Greek poets, and aimed them not toward an unknown God, but toward the true God and Creator of us all.

This series will consist of concise segments so you can spend just a few minutes with each segment and grasp some edifying information. I will be rereading the Qur'an, the holy book of the Muslims, and I will be rereading and further researching Islamic history. I am starting with the authoritative translation of the Qur'an from Arabic into English by 'Abdullah Yusuf 'Ali, first published in 1989. And the first of many books I will read is the classic "Mohammed and the Rise of Islam," by D.S. Margoliouth (1905). I will read those who support the superiority of Islam, those who seek to syncretize it with Judaism and Christianity, and those who oppose Islam as a false religion.

An ancient proverb in the Arab world goes something like this: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." When, in Matthew 22, the Pharisees and the Herodians sought to trip up Jesus, they were fulfilling this proverb. They hated each other (with their opposing political philosophies), but they hated Jesus more. After they failed to trip up Jesus, a third party, the Sadducees, who hated both the Pharisees and Herodians, tried their hand at opposing Jesus. After they failed, all three parties were again enemies of each other.
 
In the early 1980s, the United States helped create the "religious schools" of Islamic extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in order to counter the Soviet Union's attack on Afghanistan. These extremists were cultivated because they were such fierce fighters, as the Soviets learned. But in so doing, as a nation, we banked on the old Arab proverb. We did not realize the backside of such a proverb, in my own words: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend, until we defeat the common enemy, and our new friend becomes our new enemy." This is who Osama Bin Laden is. He, and those with him, took American money and training to drive out the Russian "infidels." Now they have built upon that training, and have formed the Al-Qaida network and other terrorist organizations to kick the American "infidels" out of their Islamic world. The enemy of our enemy has struck us with vengeance.
 
How do we proceed from here as a nation, and not create such a backlash again, while we necessarily need to put an end to these terrorist cells? I do not know, except that I have great faith in the power of the Gospel to break down any barrier. Thus, I will be thinking out loud with you as I write this series, and always grateful for your input. If we take seriously the image of God in all people, then we need to honestly learn about other peoples and their religions before we can make a difference in a broken world.
 
I studied Islam in both college and graduate school, but it has been some years. That is why I must, for integrity's sake, go to the original sources once again, and work from there to the present. I have several assumptions based on my prior study:
 
   1. Islam never did and does not worship the God of the Bible.
   2. Most Muslims, especially outside western civilization, do not have first-hand knowledge of the Bible.
   3. All Muslims are made in the image of God, and deserve the unalienable rights God gives all of us.
   4. Biblically faithful Christians will love those who count themselves our enemies.
   5. Biblically faithful Christians will work hard to learn how to communicate that love in the most difficult of times.
 

John Rankin is the Founder and President of the Theological Education Institue (TEI) of Hartford, Connecticut. He is the author of the three-volume series "First The Gospel, Then Politics" and host of "The Mars Hill Forum Series," which asks the toughest questions of leading skeptics.

Rev. Rankin has his Masters of Theology (Th.M)  from Harvard Divinity School and is a graduate of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

website: www.teihartford.com

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